Best Free Camping in Arkansas

Free Camping in Arkansas

By Nathan Swartz

Home to over 100 free places to camp, Arkansas should well be considered the new gateway to the west as far as those of us seeking no-cost camping areas are concerned. National forests, Army Corp of Engineer campgrounds, and dispersed camping courtesy of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are just some of the many places you'll find yourself a pro bono slice of wilderness.

See a map of all the free camping in Arkansas.

Free Camping in Arkansas National Forests

West of Little Rock, nearly 2 million acres of hardwood forest, waterfalls and free, dispersed camping grows all over the state. It's home to a free, official campground by the name of Crystal Campground, the type of place you'll find designated spots, picnic tables, fire rings, and a place to put your trash. That said, an abundance of wide-open spaces on the shores of Lake Ouachita itself are the real prize here. Expect a considerable lack of cell service and a solid drive out of the forest for supplies, but in exchange, you'll experience solace found in far too few places on this planet these days.

Free camping can also be found in the Natural State's other main national forest. Sam's Throne Recreation Area offers free, site-specific camping in the Ozark National Forest.

Anytime you're camping, free or otherwise, please remember to follow Leave No Trace Principles, so that we may all enjoy these public lands for years to come. Should you choose one of the dispersed camping sites–which means there will be no services, and little more than you and Mother Nature as a companion–be sure to do your research on the area, scout ahead and only camp in places that have clearly been occupied before. Always be sure to check local fire restrictions, as well, by contacting the forest service directly, as signage may not always be prevalent or up to date.

Free Camping at Buffalo National River

America's first national river, Buffalo National River is 153 miles of wild and scenic rushing water, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities along its run. Campers can find a free spot to set up their tent or small RV at Erbie Campground, which is a clearing in the forest situated just feet from the river itself. Further east, a handful of additional places suitable for smaller rigs–like Grinder's Ferry Gravel Bar–provide additional options for camping within this national park.

Free Camping via the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

The folks in charge of managing hunting and fishing on state lands have also provided the means to access those pursuits overnight, and for free. Still, near the Buffalo National River, four free sites by the name of Gene Rush are just waiting to be explored.

On the other end of the state, more of the same type of campsites exist along the Mississippi River, near Arkansas City. The state's Game and Fish Commission sites, while largely devoid of amenities even as basic as fire pits, tent pads and trash cans, make up the lion's share of free camping in the state. This also means you'll never be far away from one, making Arkansas one of the best places to look for free camping in the entire Eastern United States.

Free Camping at Army Corps of Engineers Sites in Arkansas

In the southwestern corner of the state, near Lake Greeson, the Army Corp of Engineers has provided five free camping areas to those interested in aquatic endeavors and outdoor life. Unlike most COE campgrounds, these spots don't have water and electric immediately at your site (though drinking water is often available elsewhere in the campground), but they are completely free. Laurel Creek is just one example of a place you can find well-manicured, free camping in this area.

The sites mentioned above near Lake Ouachita are also technically COE sites, as well. River Ridge is yet another free set of campsites provided by the Army Corp of Engineers, along the Arkansas River. Further east, near I-55 and cozying up to the banks of Enid Lake, Long Branch is another option.

Beyond these areas, county parks and Walmart parking lots, casinos and Cracker Barrels provide free camping, any of which is easy to find with Campendium. There's even a state park–Hobbs State Park by name–that provides free camping, as long as you're in a tent.

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Recent Arkansas Free Campsite Reviews

Sep 16, 2021

"Terrible! Loud dogs and rude people!"

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I was camping in the campsite near the ramp and was woken up around 10PM by a man on a 4 wheeler with 2 dogs that howled and barked the entire time! They even came up to my tent and sniffed around and barked at me! I don’t know if this man is a local asshole or something but very rude! Other than that the campsite was nice.

Peter Stone
1 review
Aug 24, 2021

"We picked this seeing the big rig in the photo"

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This is definitely better suited for tent, car and conversion van campers. There is one wide spot right at the beginning on the left that we for into 28’ and you could maybe fit one tight next to us. Gorgeous. Absolutely quiet. Place to ourselves, beautiful moon, sunset and sunrise nothing blocking our view. It is 8 miles off the “main” road so...
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Lauren Ritz
17 reviews
Jul 22, 2021

"Great overnight stop!"

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All the Arkansas rest stops are gorgeous (for rest stops). They have clean, updated bathrooms, and well kept grounds. It’s a great place to stop to grab vending machine food, give the dogs a potty break or yourself. We chose to stay here on our way to Asheville and it’s a great place to spend the night. All the big trucks are in the front, and...
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lori beebe
18 reviews
Murfreesboro, AR

Laurel Creek Campground

Jul 19, 2021

"No joke about the 5 mile dirt road, but totally worth it"

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Campsite is down an extremely bumpy and dirty off road access road. We pulled our 30' TT down it after a good rain and we were concerned about getting stuck - 4WD helps. The campground was great with plenty of spots that were level. Totally scenic and quiet, and for us it was free. Worth going if you have 4WD. No so much a big 5th wheel or...
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Ben Huff
8 reviews
Jul 16, 2021

"Clean, safe overnight "

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Great overnight spot. Patrolled constantly by security guards and police. We even had one guard approach us and showed a better place to park with a security camera and more overhead lights - very inviting. Downside is that they are very strict on a no dog policy. We were asked to move when a security guard saw us walking our dog. He...
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Ben Huff
8 reviews